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Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly. He pushed himself back, drew up his knees, embraced them, looked over to George to see whether he had it just right. He pulled his hat down a little more over his eyes, the way George's hat was. (1.10)
Sure, it seems like Lennie is about to go Single White Female on George. Instead, this is just part of his metal handicap: George is less of a friend than parent, role model, and idol all wrapped up into one.
"I was only foolin', George. I don't want no ketchup. I wouldn't eat no ketchup if it was right here beside me."
"If it was here, you could have some."
"But I wouldn't eat none, George. I'd leave it all for you. You could cover your beans with it and I wouldn't touch none of it." (1.93-95)
Lennie may not be able to look out for George, but he does what he can for his friend—like give him all the imaginary ketchup.
"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They come to a ranch an' work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they're poundin' their tail on some other ranch. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to." (1.113)
It's hard out there for a ranchhand. Steinbeck seems to be saying that the loneliness is even worse than the poverty: like Lennie and George, you can bear a lot more if you have a friend.